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Gray Wielebinski:
The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low
Institute of Contemporary Arts
Red circles overlapping that look like targets, painted against a fading blue background

The End #3 [detail], 2023, acrylic on canvas, 91.4 x 61 cm. Image: Courtesy of Hales Gallery. Copyright: Gray Wielebinski

Expanding Wielebinski’s exploration of the boundaries of private and public spaces, with references spanning sci-fi, Cold War legacies and games, The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low transforms the ICA into an investigation of constructed worlds within worlds. In doing so, Wielebinski responds to our neighbours on The Mall: Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park, and the Admiralty Citadel. The exhibition’s title is taken from a 1978 essay by science fiction writer and critic Samuel R. Delany. Delany uses the sentence as an example of the corrective and revisionary process of reading science fiction, in which ‘each new word revises the complex picture we had a moment before.’

In Wielebinski’s installation environment, overlapping worlds feel both familiar and strange. A large electronic basketball scoreboard signals to visitors their unknown role in some mysterious, surely unwinnable, game. The sun appears in multiple and sequential instances across the space, mapping a potential collapse of temporalities. Now a dark, absurdist bunker, the ICA’s smaller reading room stands in contrast to the light-filled gallery visible to those who place their eye on the aperture of a telescoping peephole connecting the two spaces. In its privacy, surveillance and exclusivity, the bunker also speaks the language of illicit spaces where separating oneself leads towards community formation rather than isolation.

Wielebinski’s commission could be viewed as a processing of terminal capitalism and the omnipresence of a collective low-grade anxiety. In the wake of a pandemic that forced the tilling of our social ground, exposing our governing systems and conventions to scrutiny they could not withstand, this exhibition imagines how we might position our individual and public selves anew. And with it comes an unexpected playfulness and optimism, the ineffable condition of living in a time in which apocalyptic precarity feels realistic and maybe also revelatory.

In conjunction with The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low Wielebinski will take over the Selfridges’ Orchard Street Windows from September to November 2023. Further, the commission Exhibition by Wielebinski is currently on display at the Selfridges Art Block.

From the shop

Exhibition images

The main gallery for The Red Sun Is High, The Blue Low. On the left wall, painted stills of sunsets. Black stairs lead down to the gallery floor, where three sofas sit in a circle, with plush red velvet covering and floor. On the back wall is a baseball-like scoreboard above a black doorway and a peephole.

A near pitch black room with blue lights on the wall, and two tiny buttons on a touch screen, red and green

A long rectangular slit looking out to the exhibition - a series of coloured target-like paintings are hanging, and the exhibition wall text is visible
Photos © Rob Harris
Gray Wielebinski (b. 1991 Dallas, TX, USA) received a BA from Pomona College, Claremont CA, USA in 2014 before completing an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art, London, UK in 2018. Recent exhibitions include: group shows at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art, London, UK; Francois Ghebaly, Los Angeles, CA; Bold Tendencies, London, UK; and V.O Curations, London, UK. Recent solo exhibitions include: Love and Theft, 12.26 Gallery in Los Angeles, CA; Oil and Water, Hales Gallery in London; and Two Snakes, 12.26 Gallery in Dallas, Texas (2020). Recent residencies include V.O Curations, City and Guilds in London in 2021 and 2019 respectively and at the Academy of Visual Arts in Hong Kong in 2018. His first book 100 Baseball Cards was published with Baron Books in 2022. Wielebinski’s work is in the collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA, USA and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Library & Archives, CA, USA.
The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low is supported by the Gray Wielebinski Exhibition Supporters Circle.
Wed 20 September – Sun 17 December 2023

Free entry on Saturday 16 & Sunday 17 December, no booking required.

Exhibition hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 4 – 9pm
Friday to Sunday: 12 – 9pm

Tickets £5, valid all day.

Free for ICA Members, some concessions, and on Tuesdays.

Book online, by phone 020 7930 3647 or email sales@ica.art

Event programme

Saturday 16 Dec, 1:30pm
Paranoid Scores in The Dark: Kem School 
Setting up camp in the absurdist bunker of Gray Wielebinski’s exhibition, Kem invites you to a  workshop. Study in the dark with Jose Funnell, Michał Grzegorzek, Stefa Gosiewsk, Ola Knychalska and Tosia Leniarska.

Saturday 16 Dec, 4pm

False Freedom: Silencing in the Arts on Solidarity with Palestine
In conjunction with the current exhibition, this panel of artists and thinkers addresses the present context of censorship in the arts.

Past programme

Tuesday 19 September, 6:30pm
Exhibition Preview

Opening night of the exhibition with a DJ set by Lil C.

Tuesday 26 Sep, 8pm
Book Launch: Gray Wielebinski, The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low
A companion piece to the exhibition edited by Wielebinski, featuring writing by Asa Seresin, Larne Abse Gogarty and Maxi Wallenhorst, alongside archival imagery.

Tuesday 10 Oct, 7pm
Discussion group with Eliel Jones
Eliel Jones leads a discursive session extending from the exhibition themes exploring the practice of hosting as a queer, artistic and curatorial method.

Sunday 5 Nov, 2pm
Workshop with bones tan jones
A workshop responding to the exhibition’s central motif, the sun.

Wednesday 15 Nov, 6:30pm
Sublime Paranoia: Huw Lemmey, Ian Penman and Asa Seresin in conversation
Expanding on themes within Gray Wielebinski’s exhibition, the speakers will present aspects of their own research across queer iconographies and histories.

Thursday 16 Nov, 6:30pm
Heather Love, Underdogs: Social Deviance and Queer Theory
The author leads a reading group on her 2021 book Underdogs: Social Deviance and Queer Theory.

Saturday 2 Dec, 2 – 6pm

The Toxic Consultancy: Game Edition
The Toxic Consultancy is a game that deepens and disrupts the relationship between taxonomies and toxicities. Held in the exhibition space and led by artist Mary Maggic.

Tuesday 5 Dec, 5pm
Dragging Workshop: Eglė Budvytytė led by Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome
A somatic and participatory workshop led by artist Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome working with Egle Budvytyte’s dragging practice.

Saturday 9 Dec, 2pm
Choreographic workshop with Maria Metsalu

A workshop of group choreographic instructions to dance together, embody feelings and explore a sense of safety in stillness with one another.

Tuesday 3 Oct – Tuesday 12 Dec
Gray Wielebinski’s Film Club
A series of films picked by Gray, foregrounding the question of paranoia.

A spiked crown made of dark bronze
Stigma [detail], 2023, bronze, 34.5 x 34.5 x 7 cm. Image: Courtesy of Hales Gallery. Copyright: Gray Wielebinski

A series of four paintings depicting the sun fading behind a building in reds and yellows
The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low, 2023. Installation rendering, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, featuring altered images of video stills from Querelle, dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982. Image: Courtesy of Gray Wielebinski and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

Pink, red and purple circles overlapped
The End #4, 2023, acrylic on canvas, 91.4 x 61 cm. Image: Courtesy of Hales Gallery. Copyright: Gray Wielebinski

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